In today’s Washington Post there are two articles about public education in the District of Columbia. The first, by Michael Allison Chandler, celebrates the five year anniversary of Kaya Henderson as DCPS Chancellor. She includes this observation:
“Despite the accolades, many educators and advocates are concerned that progress in the school system is still not being felt by many of city’s most disadvantaged students. In many schools in the poorest parts of the city, less than a third of students perform on grade level, standardized tests show.”
The second piece, by Emma Brown, talks about the fact that the growth of charter schools in the nation’s capital has slowed. She explains that while it was true for years that only New Orleans had a higher concentration of students in charters, now D.C. is eclipsed by Detroit and Flint, Michigan as well. For the last three terms the percentage of kids in charters has remained stuck at 44 percent. Ms. Brown writes:
“That flat-lining comes after a period of rapid growth: Nine years ago, just 25 percent of D.C. schoolchildren were in charters, which are funded with taxpayer dollars but run by independent nonprofits.”
These two trends are not good. We desperately need to figure out how to increase substantially the number of high performing seats for every child that needs one. Many have recognized that providing a quality education to all, no matter the race or socioeconomic status of the student, is the final great civil rights struggle of our time.
How do we do it? Well we need some help. The DC Public Charter School Board needs to provide incentives for good schools to replicate such as giving a year off of Performance Management Framework grading when a new campus is added. Next, the city must turn over to charters the 20 or so vacant shuttered school buildings that are currently sitting empty. In addition, the Mayor should bring to a conclusion the FOCUS engineered funding inequity lawsuit so that charters operate on a level playing field with DCPS. Ms. Bowser, the D.C. Council, and Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, also have a duty to bring successful charter management organizations here with the promise of a facility.
I guess we could go on talking about the quality of our public schools for another 100 years. For me, I just don’t have the patience.